Advertisement
  1. News

Young North Pinellas figure skaters win gold at nationals

William and JoJo Hubbart practice last week at Tampa Bay Skating Academy in Oldsmar. After winning the juvenile pairs championship, they advance to the next level, intermediate, where the lifts, jumps and throws can get pretty frightening.
Published Feb. 8, 2013

OLDSMAR

Born one year and two days apart, siblings William and JoJo Hubbart share birthday celebrations, auburn hair, blue eyes — and a burning passion for figure skating.

Now, they're sharing the gold.

William, 15, and JoJo, 14, are the newly minted U.S. Figure Skating juvenile pairs champions.

On Jan. 25, JoJo's 14th birthday, the team won top honors during the national competition in Omaha, Neb. Skating to a selection from Riverdance, they nailed their thrown double flips, side-by-side double lutzes and synchronized spins.

Their score of 48.16 seemed to impress everyone, including their Russian coach Alex Vlassov, who works with them at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy in Oldsmar. They also train with Vlassov's wife, Laura Amelina.

"To get above 40 in the juvenile level is unusual," said Vlassov, a former Olympic pair skater. "They had a lot of life in their program."

William was one of three out of more than 370 competitors to skate in multiple divisions at the nationals. Just 90 minutes prior to skating the juvenile pairs program, William skated the intermediate men's short program, placing tenth. Two days later, he turned in a solid intermediate men's long program to improve his standing to ninth place.

Not bad for someone who weighed 3 pounds, 10 ounces at birth and stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit for a month.

• • •

William came eight weeks prematurely. He was so small, his first bath was taken in a margarine tub.

But at three weeks, he was kicking the door to his hospital isolette open.

"They nicknamed him 'Fighter,' " said his mother, Carol Hubbart.

She speculated that the kicking may have been the precursor to his strong jumping skills.

Even with his strong little legs, William was often sick and had to be hospitalized twice for upper respiratory infections. The doctors advised the couple to find a sport to build his cardiovascular, respiratory and immune systems. So when he was 4, Carol took William to a Mommy and Me skating class.

"He just skated off and loved it," she said.

A year later, JoJo put on skates and a pair was born, though they didn't officially start training as a pair until two years ago.

Both strong individual skaters, there was one big obstacle to overcome. William, who had learned to jump clockwise, had to relearn all his jumps in the opposite direction.

• • •

"I love competing more than practicing," said William, adding that he wasn't a bit nervous at the nationals.

Chalk it up to hard work, dedication and lots of preparation. The homeschooled Hubbarts, who live in Palm Harbor, train up to six hours a day, six days a week.

Brother Nick, 12, is also a competitive skater and siblings Chris, 10, and Jen, 8, are "thinking about it."

It all comes with a hefty price tag. The children's father, Kevin Hubbart, who works for Subway Development of Tampa Bay, said the family spent close to $100,000 this year alone in ice time, travel, gear, costumes and coaching fees. "It takes up a good chunk of our income," he said. "But it's something they really love. I've told them as long as they love doing it, I'll find a way to make it happen. But if I'm going to put this investment in it, I expect to see them put that much effort into it.

"They've exceeded me so far," he said.

Carol said she never nags.

"They are in charge of their own skating. They're very independent," she said. "I just watch, support, bring food."

• • •

It's not unusual to see brother and sister pairs at the juvenile level. The ability to practice together as much as possible can be a real advantage, especially if they have similar goals and get along well.

"We basically never fight," said JoJo.

"We like to work on lifts at home," said William, who is 5-foot-4 and weighs 102 pounds. JoJo, who stands 4-foot-8 and weighs 60 pounds, said she loves to be tossed up into the air.

"As long as he does it right," she said.

Now the pair will advance to the next level, intermediate, where the lifts, jumps and throws can get pretty frightening, especially as they are being learned.

"Everyone wants to know if we're scared about pairs," said Carol. "I tell them that I trust (coaches) Alex and Laura and am confident they know how to teach so (William and JoJo) won't get injured."

Added Kevin, "We just tell Will he's not allowed to drop his sister."

Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at treeves@tampabay.rr.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. Times
    One woman, 82, was crossing 50th Street, and the other, 58, was struck on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
  2. In this March 24, 2018, file photo, crowds of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in San Francisco. JOSH EDELSON  |  AP
    ‘Guns are always a volatile topic in the halls of the legislature,’ one Republican said.
  3. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said the deputy intentionally struck a car to keep up from spinning into oncoming traffic along Curlew Road.
  4. Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. Times
    A seriously injured man found near Fowler Avenue and 22nd Street died at a hospital, police said.
  5. Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. Times
    The crash happened on Dr. Martin Luther King Street N, along a stretch with a designated bicycle route.
  6. Erik Maltais took an unconventional path to becoming CEO of Immertec, a virtual reality company aimed at training physicians remotely. He dropped out of school as a teenager, served in Iraq in the Marine Corps and eventually found his way to Tampa. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    Software from Immertec can bring physicians into an operating room thousands of miles away.
  7. Hurricane Jerry is expected to begin moving to the north on Saturday. A tropical wave is expected to develop off the coast of Africa over the weekend. National Hurricane Center
    The system is expected to produce heavy rainfall and flash floods in the eastern Caribbean.
  8. In this photo provided by Peter Sacco, a crowd gathers at a cordoned-off intersection near a shooting Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in a Washington D.C. neighborhood. Police say one man was killed and five other adults were wounded in a shooting in the courtyard of an apartment complex near Columbia Heights Metro Station in the nation's capital. PETER SACCO  |  AP
    Police say five victims in the Columbia Heights shooting were men and one was a woman.
  9. Democratic presidential candidate New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the New Hampshire state Democratic Party convention, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Manchester, NH. ROBERT F. BUKATY  |  AP
    De Blasio struggled to gain traction in a sprawling field of Democrats seeking the presidency. He announced his decision in an MSNBC interview on Friday.
  10. Jade McLain carries Thor out of a boat as she and Fred Stewart were rescued from their flooded neighborhood inundated by rains from Tropical Depression Imelda by Splendora Police officers on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Spendora, Texas. BRETT COOMER  |  AP
    By Thursday night, floodwaters had started receding in most of the Houston area, said the city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement